13 Oct How Seniors Can Lower Their High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common medical condition in seniors. According to research published in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), it affects over two-thirds of all adults over the age of 65. As our bodies age, changes occur to our arteries. They lose their natural elasticity, resulting in increased stiffness that contributes to high blood pressure.
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a concern for several reasons. It’s a leading risk factor for stroke, for example. Blood is more likely to clot when there’s excess pressure in the arteries. Depending on where this occurs, it may restrict blood flow to the brain, thus causing a stroke. High blood pressure has also been linked to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease. Fortunately, though, there are steps seniors can take to lower their high blood pressure.
Reduce Sodium Intake
High-sodium diets can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Sodium, while an essential nutrient, promotes water retention. It causes seniors to hold more water in their body, including their arteries. When this occurs, a senior’s blood pressure levels may rise.
Dietary guidelines currently recommend no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Of course, many seniors unknowingly consume far more sodium in their diet. Even things like ketchup, soup and microwaveable meals can pack a lot of sodium. By lowering their sodium intake, seniors can protect themselves from high blood pressure and its associated health concerns.
Follow the DASH Diet
Of course, following the DASH diet can help seniors manage their high blood pressure. An acronym for Dietary Approached to Stop Hypertension (DASH), it’s been around for over a decade. The DASH diet, in fact, was designed specifically to combat high blood pressure.
What is the DASH diet exactly? Basically, it centers around the following foods, all of which promote lower blood pressure:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Lean means
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Weight and blood pressure go hand in hand. Seniors who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than their counterparts. Some studies show that being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure by as much as 26%.
Blood pressure is influenced by the strength at which the heart pumps blood through a senior’s body. If a senior is overweight, his or her heart must work harder. The senior’s heart will use greater force to pump blood through his or her body. This increased force places pressure on the inner walls of the senior’s arteries, thus causing his or her blood pressure levels to increase.
Monitor Blood Pressure Levels
Seniors can’t expect to lower their high blood pressure unless they monitor their levels. There are two types of blood pressure levels: systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure is the force within the arteries while the heart is pumping blood. In comparison, diastolic pressure is the force within the arteries while the heart is resting.
There are monitoring devices available that allow seniors to check both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. They typically consist of a velcro cuff that’s placed around a senior’s arm and then inflated with air. As the cuff inflates, it restricts blood flow. The cuff is connected to a gauge that shows the senior’s systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels.
Relax and Don’t Stress
Seniors who are chronically or severely stressed are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. Even though it’s a psychological condition, stress causes physical changes in the body. Among other things, it promotes the production of stress hormones like coritsol. When these stress hormones are released, they can have an adverse effect on a senior’s blood pressure levels.
Many seniors suffer from chronic and/or severe stress. As a result, they are susceptible to high blood pressure. By taking control of their stress levels, however, they can regin in their blood pressure as well.
Don’t Skip Medication
There are some highly effective forms of medication available to treat and prevent high blood pressure. Some of them are designed to relax the arteries, for instance, whereas others are designed to thin the blood. Regardless, they can help seniors lower their high blood pressure.
It’s important to note that blood pressure medication is only effective if it’s taken according to schedule. Seniors who’ve been prescribed blood pressure medication must take them as prescribed. Skipping just one dosage could have a rebound effect that causes a senior’s blood pressure levels to suddenly spike.
High blood pressure is a concern for all seniors. It increases the risk of many serious diseases and conditions. Even if a senior has elevated or high blood pressure, however, there are ways to turn it around. Reducing sodium intake, following the DASH diet, maintaining a healthy weight, monitoring blood pressure levels, lowering stress and taking medication according to schedule can all help.